Category: Christian Counseling

3 Ways to Change Your Thoughts (and Your Life)

taking thoughts captive

Have you ever stopped to think about the number of thoughts you think a day? I mean, my mind is constantly going so the number has got to be high, right? So, I do what we all do when we have a question these days, I asked Google. A brief search revealed that apparently we think about 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day. Wow. That. Is. A. Big. Number. Now I cannot verify this with a scientific study and the social researcher in me is annoyed by that…. but we can all agree on this, we think A LOT! Which means! I guess that could be a good thing or bad thing depending on what we say to ourselves. Do we stop and consider the message, tone, and implication of our thoughts? Are our thoughts helping or hurting us? How accurate are our thoughts?

Here’s something I have observed as a therapist. Most of our thoughts are opinions and not facts.

This may not seem earth-shattering news to you but stick with me. Opinions are not facts…they are debatable…there is always another opposing opinion. The problem comes when we:

  1. Treat these opinion statements as facts
  2. Incorporate them into our identity.
Most of our thoughts are opinions and not facts. Click To Tweet

For example:

We might think, “I am unsafe in an airplane”. Now that is an opinion thought. Other people can tell me how safe airplanes are. Yet, I am going to listen to my opinion thought because I’m treating it as fact and it is reinforced by a strong fear emotion. Viewing this opinion thought as a fact keeps me from flying and limits my freedom to travel.

Now imagine if most of our 50,000 thoughts are opinion thoughts that we treat as fact. Seriously, consider this…consider each strong emotion….is there an opinion thought behind it?

How often do our own thoughts mislead and deceive us, leaving us overwhelmed? Perhaps part of “taking our thoughts captive” is this recognition of opinion thoughts and their influence over our emotions and perspective.

Perhaps part of “taking our thoughts captive” is this recognition of opinion thoughts. Click To Tweet

But HOW?

How to change your thoughts: pause

How to change your thoughts: zoom outHow to change your thoughts: share

 

 

 

 

PAUSE: Consider pressing the pause button when you feel a strong emotion. Stop. Take a few slow deep breaths. Invite God into the moment. Observe the world with your 5 senses.

ZOOM OUT: Zoom out to consider if there it is an opinion or fact thought. If it is an opinion, what are the absolute facts of the situation?

SHARE: Share your reflections with a safe friend. Talking out loud to helps your brain pause, zoom out, and reflect. Plus it helps you make sense of what seems overwhelming in the moment. No safe friends available, then write about it, maybe write to God.

Our thoughts are powerful. Click To Tweet

Our thoughts are powerful. How we speak to us matters….we often are more critical and harsh with ourselves than anyone else is. What if we pledged to think about our thoughts? What if by doing so we could change how we think? What if this changes our lives? As always, if you need help find a good counselor who can help you with this process. Hang on to hope!!

What if we pledged to think about our thoughts? What if this changes our lives? Click To Tweet

change your thoughts: opinion or fact?

 

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/change-your-thoughts/

Shocked by Suffering

Not sure how to start this blog on suffering. It’s been a while since I’ve written. The unexpected happened in our family during the holidays. It doesn’t matter how much you intellectually know that we all experience suffering in life…it still catches you off guard and knocks you flat out! Trust me…I hear suffering all day…it’s part of my job…I’ve studied it…I’ve walked through some of my own…I am not unaware of the reality…and yet when it hits close to home….it’s tough.

God's Presence in SufferingSudden suffering has a way of knocking the wind out of us. We struggle for air, shaken, not sure we can get back up.

Despite everything, I can say in the midst of sudden suffering the following things are tangibly real:

  • God’s presence is so much stronger and clearer during times of suffering and struggle.IMG_4070
  • God’s peace really is amazing and completely incomprehensible.
  • God’s people SHOW UP!
  • God’s plan is better than mine (that’s a hard one…but it is, I know it).
  • God is good despite my suffering.
  • Our world is sooooo broken.
  • I long even more for God to make all things new.

 

 

Sudden suffering looks different for all of us. It could be a serious illness, tragic accident, natural disaster, recurrence of depression, extreme panic or anxiety, or anything that knocks you down. Whatever it is, let me say this…

You are not alone.

You can walk this road.

You are stronger than you think.

You are brave to get back up.

You just have to take it one step at a time.

I don’t by any stretch have all the answers…but I feel compelled to share what I have learned (and am still learning) about walking in suffering…mainly so I can go back and read it later…hopefully it helps you on your journey too.

First, take the time you need. I mean if you need to go be with family, if you need to be alone, whatever it is you need…make sure you give yourself that time. Our schedules and daily demands can all be put on hold. It’s not selfish to take the time you need.

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Second, know what replenishes your cup. In counseling we call this self-care. Know how to take care of you, how to rest, and what you can do to keep going. Is it remembering to eat, giving yourself permission to sleep, time alone, time with others, whatever it is….make it a priority now more than ever.

Third, tell others what to do. Everyone wants to help in a time of crisis…they feel powerless and they love you. So when they say, “let me know what I can do”….they mean it. I get it, you don’t know what you need…but when you do…share the need. We don’t frequently because “we don’t want to bother people”. It’s okay to ask even for help with small things.

Fourth, you will feel all kinds of things at all different times and that is okay. Take time to feel what you feel.

Fifth, gather close your support system. I’ve found there are people I can be with that let me process and deal. Those are the ones I want around me. Those are the ones I ask the most for help. Those people are the ones that can help you identify what you need, will let you process, and can help you organize everyone else that wants to help.

Sixth, don’t struggle alone. Burdens are so much easier to bear in community. If you don’t have an existing support community, find a good support group or a counselor.

Remember….

You are not alone. You can walk this road. You are stronger than you think. Click To Tweet You are brave to get back up. You just have to take it one step at a time. Click To Tweet

 

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/shocked-by-suffering/

Hope for the Holidays

Hope for the Holidays Not Christmas Stress

Let’s all be super honest! The holidays bring stress. Lots of STRESS!! Even good things create stress and just the sheer volume of extra work brings with it a level of stress. Most of us have schedules that have no extra room to accomplish these extra tasks.

* Gift buying  *Decorating *Parties *Wrapping *Travel *Finances

Not to mention, the list of things that surface during the holidays.

*Expectations *Loss *Loneliness *Grief *Depression *Anxiety *Family

Now I love Christmas but what I really love is family time, relaxing, good food, games and peace. I love celebrating the amazing thing God did by sending Jesus. Accomplishing for us, what we could never do on our own. The last thing I want is to get lost in the chaotic must be perfect American Christmas…but we do…it’s easy.

We like pretty things and giving gifts and parties and on and on it goes. If we aren’t careful, we walk through the season and we miss it…or we dread it.

If we aren’t careful, we walk through the season and we miss it…or we dread it. Click To Tweet

Maybe there is hope for the holidays, hope for the stress we are all under. Maybe the solution is to shift our expectations. To expect things to be busy, to expect things to be not perfect, to expect people to be crazy, to expect stores to be busy, to expect kids to argue during advent, and to expect those who’ve experienced grief to be sad.

Preparing for stressful times is a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual process:

Mentally:

Look at the situation with realistic expectations.

Remember what you really value and want out of this time.

Physically:

Take care of yourself: eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep

Take time to sit and take slow deep breathes.

Observe the world around you. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Take time to live in the moment.

This time of year can be difficult for those who have experienced loss Click To Tweet

Emotional:

Know when you need extra support. This time of year can be difficult for those who have experienced loss or already struggle with anxiety and depression. Have safe people on call for you, join a support group, or just be real with your family and friends. They love you. You don’t have to pretend. If you need professional help, call a good counselor.

Spiritually:

The season is about GRACE! Grace God extends to us through the incredible gift of Jesus.

The season is about GRACE! Grace God extends to us through the incredible gift of Jesus. Click To Tweet

Grace wins. Grace doesn’t expect anything but us to be real and messy. Grace gives. Grace forgives. Grace is undeserved. Christmas is Grace.

 

Hope for the Holidays

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/hope-for-the-holidays/

Why Try? The Struggle is Real.

Life. Isn’t it interesting how we expect things to go easy, ALL THE TIME? I mean we come against something hard and we panic, freak out, wonder what we are doing wrong. Is it our culture that has information at our fingertips, a store within 5 minutes selling anything we might need, and quick meals on every corner that sets us up for this unrealistic expectation?

Now I know (legitimately KNOW) that life is hard and that struggle is real. We all know this and yet we baulk at challenges or difficulty.

In fact some of us just quit…

It’s true. We imagine all the things that could go wrong, might go wrong, will go wrong and we decide it is not worth trying.

Or, we’re so paralyzed by our own super critical thought dialogue that we are doomed before we start.

Or, we hear some voice from the past that told us we couldn’t do much and we listen to it once again.

Or, we picture how we failed the last time and we give up.

Maybe struggle IS one of the best gifts of life. What if struggle births maturity, strength, and true beauty? In fact, I am not sure anything of real substance or meaning comes without struggle?

Maybe struggle IS one of the best gifts of life. Click To Tweet

Here are some examples that come to mind:

  • The butterfly comes from the struggle out of the cocoon.
  • A mom giving birth to a child in hard intense labor.
  • Muscles grow by pushing the physical limits (painful reminder from my morning workout).
  • Crops don’t grow without hard work to till, sow, and reap.
  • Homes and buildings aren’t built without hard physical labor.

What if learning to encounter and deal with challenges IS what defines success.

What if learning to encounter and deal with challenges IS what defines success. Click To Tweet

Yet so many of us live in the past or the future. The past reminds us of all our past hurts and failures. The future has so many potential problems. We focus in both directions and we freeze…

Yet NOW is what we have, it is all we have and all we ever have.

NOW is powerful, present, unwritten.

NOW is healing, centering and full of hope.

NOW is a new page of a new story that you purposefully write yourself.

We look back to understand, heal, and grow. So we can be fully present in the NOW.

Encountering difficulty? Take hope, you are not alone. We all struggle with something.

Doubting if you can try? Take a risk, dealing with the challenges that come is part of the journey. Risking IS succeeding.

Discouraged? Take heart, be the biggest supporter and encourager of you…if you don’t who will? Find outside support, your cheering section…they are out there.

Need help? Take action, help is available. There are so many resources of help and hope around. Support groups, church groups, growth groups, counselors, mentors, or coaches. Investing in you is the best investment you can make.

You are not alone. We are all walking the bumpy road of life with you. Look around it’s a beautiful day to keep going…

You are not alone. We are all walking the bumpy road of life with you. Click To Tweet

mother theresa quote

 

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/struggle/

Embracing Who We Are

This is a crazy metaphor…maybe only women will understand it…but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about embracing who we ARE and not striving for something different.

This came about as I started letting my hair, do what it does…which is a half-hearted wavy, not real curl kind of thing.

For years, I have just straightened my hair (or kept it shorter). It never really did much else…yet all of a sudden my hair has more spunk (or waves) if I let it.

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Sometimes I do, I let it be wild and wavy…some pieces are straight, some curl sweetly and some just frizz or stick out. My inner perfectionist screams that my curls are wild and out of control…yet I let them be and do what they want to be and do.

As I have wrestled with this different type of hair (and let me assure you, the struggle is real…short hair may be in my future), I picture all of us in life. We are wild and wavy. We are unique. Some of us frizz, some curl cutely, some stick out straight, but we each matter, and we each have meaning.

We are wild and wavy. We are unique. Some of us frizz, some curl cutely but we each matter. Click To Tweet

Yet so often we don’t let ourselves just be wild and wavy. We are told to straighten out. Don’t be unique; be like all the other straightened out people…boring, the same, and perfectly smooth.

The thing is…even when I straighten my hair…if it rains or I sweat, the wave returns. There is no perfect conformity and there is no such thing as perfection. It’s an illusion…an unattainable standard. All the striving for perfection brings me is the feeling that I am constantly not enough. I need to do more or try harder.

Yet I am who God created me to be and so are you… wonderfully wild and wavy. I make mistakes and I mess up. Sometimes my waves are pretty and sometimes they are a frizzy mess.

Grace is wild and wavy. It uproots perfection and shouts “It Is Finished”. I’ll settle for wild and wavy because it means I get Jesus…His perfection is better than my horrible attempt to straighten my wild and wavy hair…..
Grace is wild and wavy. It uproots perfection and shouts “It Is Finished”. Click To Tweet

wildlove

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/embracing-who-we-are/

Deep Feelings and the Gospel

Loss hurts. Change brings fear of the unknown. Struggle is hard. Trauma changes us.

Sadness, anger, shame, and fear can feel overwhelming leaving us stuck and frozen, not knowing what to do.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Psalm 42:5

“My tears have been my food day and night” Psalm 42:3

How much do we identify with the Psalmist? How much do we struggle with loss, sadness, anger, fear, and shame? How many nights have we wrestled and cried.

Frequently we think it is wrong to experience normal feelings or that somehow it means we don’t have enough faith.

Life in this fallen world hurts. Feelings don’t show a lack of faith but that we are normal humans, living in a broken world.

Feelings don’t show a lack of faith but that we are normal humans Click To Tweet

The Psalmist reminds us that our souls are thirsty for more…..

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God for the living God.” Psalm 42:1-2 

deer2

The water our souls thirst for is found in Jesus. He is Living Water. Every other relationship on this earth will fail to satisfy.

Loss and hurt is a reminder of our need for Him.

Shame and the pain of trauma is a reminder of the deep brokenness of creation and our need for Him.

It’s not wrong to feel. It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s human. Click To Tweet

It’s not wrong to feel. It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s human. God is pained over the brokenness of the world, too. God can handle your questions. Your feelings communicate needs.

God is pained over the brokenness of the world, too. Click To Tweet

In this Psalm, the writer knows he needs to praise God and remember how faithful and loving the Lord has been to Him. He challenges his inner dialogue and reminds himself of the truth!

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock; “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5-11

God is good. God is faithful. He has proven His love for me time and again. Remember. He loves us with an everlasting, initiating, unconditional, redeeming, restoring and rescuing love.

He loves us with an everlasting, initiating, unconditional, and rescuing love. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/feelings/

Aimee’s Self-Care Tool Box

self-care

This is a follow-up to my post on rest. I thought I would share the things that I consider self-care. It’s important to know what things recharge you so that you can replenish your energy.  This is different for everyone based on temperament and preferences. I give myself permission to include self-care into my daily and weekly routine. This isn’t frivolous but needed recharge time. When I do this, I am a better wife, mom, friend, and counselor.

  • Coffee while on Twitter or watching Hulu (this is a picture of my favorite mug ) ❤️
  • Listening to favorite Music: I love a variety of music. Have worship music, pop music, country music, 80s music. What I choose depends on how I feel.
  • Watching funny TV shows or movies
  • Spending time with those I love
  • Fun games (not too analytical but fun…at my home we do a lot of analytical games…Table Top 😁)
  • Watching football (especially the Texas Aggies or anyone who has been an Aggie)
  • Dancing with my hubby (I’m a Texan so two-stepping only please)
  • Watching my kid play soccer. (Go Pumas!)
  • Relaxing in beautiful weather (70 degrees, patio dining, long walks)
  • Long talks with good girlfriends
  • Reading
  • Listening to favorite podcasts
  • Manicures and Pedicures
  • Mexican food (I could eat mexican food for every meal)
  • Snuggling during super cold weather. Sitting by the fire
  • Laying by the pool in hot weather.

What is self-care for you??

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/self-care/

Defining Rest.

I have to be honest but today I am exhausted. And not the I could go sleep exhausted but the my brain is not working well exhausted. You know, the kind of mental and emotional fatigue that just settles in and keeps you stuck…on the couch…watching Netflix….

We all have these times in life. We’ve finished a big project, we burned the candle at both ends, our kids kept us up too late, stress is piling up, or we are dealing with strong emotions (panic, fear, anxiety, grief, trauma, or sadness).

This is a life reality for all of us. None of us is super human; none of us can keep going and going and going without eventually burning out. Life is hard sometimes, if we are honest, life is hard a lot of times. So what do we do? How can we manage the demands of our lives but find time to rest and recharge?

In our busy, hectic culture, rest is an unknown concept. As I have gotten older, I have decided that rest is so much more than getting a good night sleep (although that is clearly important). I think rest is more comprehensive. I think it involves:

Values: Knowing what is important and a priority in our life. So often we spend time and energy on things that really hold no value for us.

Boundaries: Knowing our limits and being able to say no to things (even good things) of lesser value to us. Knowing our values can help guide how and when we set boundaries around our selves and our time.

Self-Care: Making sure that we know the things we need to function healthily and what things are revitalizing and recharging for us. Taking care of our whole selves emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally, and spiritually.

Self-Compassion: We are all imperfect and limited. Self-compassion is recognizing and accepting our limits without judging ourselves harshly. It’s giving our selves grace and permission to be human.

Safe Mutual Connections: We are made for connection with other people. People who are aware of their own struggles and imperfections. People who accept us for who we are (warts and all). Spending time with people like this is refreshing. There is no judgment, just love, grace, and freedom.

These are all ideas found throughout scripture and modeled by Jesus. Maybe our Creator God knew how much we would need rest. Perhaps that is why He rested on day seven. Perhaps that is why he calls us to rest in Him. Perhaps that is why He initiates and draws us to Him. Perhaps that’s why He says “It is finished” (John 19:30).

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

 

Defining Rest

 

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Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/rest/

The Benefits of Looking Back

Looking back into our past hurts. It’s messy and vulnerable.  As much as we probably don’t want to admit it, we are fundamentally shaped by our childhood experiences. We learn lessons that impact us at a core, relational level, like:

  1. How to view the world (safe or unsafe)
  2. How to think about ourselves (capable or incapable; worthy of love and comfort or not)
  3. How to relate with others (trustworthy or not trustworthy)

How our parents interact with each other and with us directly influences our identity and our ability to connect with others. I could go into the psychological and sociological research (because it’s extensive) but you probably don’t want to hear all that.  In our independent, move out and move on culture, we have two problems with this reality.

  1. We want to believe we can move out and move on
  2. We want to believe we don’t need other people

Yet, we ARE relational and do NEED genuine connection. The first connections we have in life (with mom and dad) influence all our other connections. Denying this reality causes relational conflict and internal discontent. If we just focus on our current problems, as individuals or couples, and don’t look back to see if the past is influencing us, then we are denying our relational existence AND limiting our opportunity for growth and healing.

Now, none of us has perfect parents and none of us will be perfect parents. We all come out of our families with some sort of dysfunction. Unfortunately, some of us have more dysfunctional families than others. That’s just the reality of life in a broken world.

The good news is that these imprints can be understood AND changed (redeemed)! Wounds created in relationship can be healed in relationship. Spouses, good safe friends, or a relationship with Jesus can provide the secure, safe space needed for us to heal and grow. For more information check out one of my favorite resources: www.howwelove.com.

Some of us will need more help, so find a counselor, knowledgeable in attachment theory who can help you take that look back, not to stay stuck or judge the past but to understand, to heal, and to grow!

understand heal and grow

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/the-benefits-of-looking-back/

We Dig: The Daily Struggle with Addictions and Idolatry

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

We all do this…in a million different ways throughout our lifetimes.

Sometimes it’s pursuing good things like a job, career, or relationships with people.

Sometimes it’s pursuing destructive things like drugs, alcohol, pornography, eating disorders, cutting, or other addictions and idolatry.

Yet we dig. We dig to find water in that, which has no water. We dig with hopes that we will not remain thirsty. We dig fast, we dig hard, we are desperate!

We sweat and we strive. Our muscles ache from the digging. We stand in the midst of the dirt-covered hole that we dug for ourselves and we are mad!!

We are mad at God: mad that He hasn’t quenched our thirst, mad that our arms ache from digging, mad at the pain, mad that we are alone in this pit, mad that we are tired…

Our belief is “only I can meet my need for thirst, I must keep digging, can’t God help me find the water I need”.   We feel abandoned, alone, afraid, tired, dirty, hopeless…

We stop for a minute, weary from the digging; sweat and tears fall down our face.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

In the stillness, we feel a subtle breeze, and hear the sound of water…. it’s not coming from below where we were digging but from above. We pause and listen.

“Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever, believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38

 “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

We set down our shovel and take His beautiful nail scarred hand. He draws us up and out of our pit and guides us to the water we have been so desperately searching for. Here we find grace, restoration, redemption, and peace. Here we experience contentment, despite our circumstances. Here we are fully known in our dirt-covered filth and loved. For redeemed sinners, this is a daily, moment-by-moment reality. For some of us, we are deeper in our holes, we’ve decorated our holes, they are known areas that we think are havens of safety, but we are deceived. In reality, they are dirty and dry. O Lord….

 We “believe; help (our) unbelief!” Mark 9:24

We Dig

The coolest thing about Jesus is that he loves us, even when we take our eyes off him and crawl back down in our holes. He doesn’t judge us or shame us….He took all our sin, shame, and judgement on the cross. He has compassion for us. He extends grace to us! He draws us back, each time…reminding us that what we really thirst for is more of Him. The more we experience His living water, the more we want….

‘Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live;”   Isaiah 55:1-3

If you like what you read, please comment below or share on social media. ❤️

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/we-dig-the-daily-struggle-with-addictions-and-idolatry/

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